Florida Agent Wants Her Submissions to Stand Out

Dear Bonnie,

My name is Alicia and I am a SAG franchised agent in Florida. I have read your Casting Qs book and am just starting on Acting Qs. I wanted to thank you for all of the information you put out in this industry and the time you take to help others. I really respect the fact that you dedicate yourself fully to this industry and am grateful for that.

I was wondering if I could ask you a question. I have recently started to get involved with more of the castings in the larger markets and because I am still new to it, I am having some difficulties. I subscribe to Breakdown Services and submit to them all the time. But I think I am missing something.

Is there any advice you could give me on how to make my submissions stand out so the casting directors will really consider my actors? I have quite a few extremely talented performers and once they audition, they book. I just need to get them in the door. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Also, if you are ever considering doing a workshop in Florida, please let me know. I would love to bring you in anytime!

Thank you again,
Alicia Zicchino
Posh Models Inc.

Hi Alicia,

I’ve enjoyed getting to know you online and I look forward to working with you in the future. I’d love to make a trip out to Florida to speak with actors there. Maybe we can set something up to coincide with the 3rd edition of Self-Management for Actors, which is due later this year. (In the mean time, how’s about I send you a copy of the 2nd edition for your library?) It’s always fun for me when a non-actor emails me for advice, because I think the different perspective is good for the actor readers out there AND I love keeping up with issues that all professionals in this business face!

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

At the foundation of any agent’s ability to get her clients noticed by casting directors is a relationship. And, as you know from your local market, building relationships takes time. And consistency. Casting directors need to learn who you are, learn what sort of actors you represent (what their level of talent might be), and see that you consistently get in front of them actors who are right for the role, that these actors are at the level of talent to handle the role, and that you’re not just a flash in the pan who will be unreachable next season. All of that takes time to establish.

For example, at least two new agencies sprung up in LA within the past few months. I took a look at the actors submitted by one of the agencies and they were mostly actors whose work I already know, actors whom I had already called in on previous projects, and absolutely actors whose abilities of which I had a general sense. Turns out, this agency was created by an agent with whom I had a relationship when he was over at another agency. And now, he and another agent created a partnership via this new agency, and that got them on the fast track (at least with me) for having their actors called in. Their roster already had a reputation. So, that helped. The other of the two new agencies I mentioned had a roster filled with actors whose work I don’t know, whose faces are only familiar in the same way that any number of actors’ headshots will look familiar due to unsolicited mailings or repeated online submissions, and whose talents I had no way to verify through personal experience. So, that agency (and, therefore, the agents working there) will have to work harder to earn session slots for its clients.

So, how do you work harder? Ah, well, let’s look at how to work smarter first. The smart “new” agent (and I mean “new” as in “new to me,” “new on my radar,” “new to this market”) will require her clients to include excellent demo reel footage, as the inclusion of demo reel footage can keep an actor whose work we don’t otherwise know in the mix a little longer. If we can assess risk via one click, we will. That’s low commitment and a great bit of information available to us, right on our own computer screens. The headshots need to be outstanding (and that means that they can compete in the LA or larger regional market you’re targeting, which means you’ll need to really keep up with what works in Hollywood vs. what flies in Florida alone). And the actors’ resumés need to be formatted in the way we’re used to seeing actors’ resumés, with none of the regional nuances that work locally but scream “non-LA actor” here. Use the NOTES section in the electronic submission area to mention that the actor can fly out, put himself on tape, work as a local hire. Whatever gets the info to us without coming off desperate.

Probably most important is knowing that the actors you’re submitting are absolutely “LA quality” and above. That may come off as a conceited statement about the LA talent pool (and believe me, we all know that there are good and bad actors everywhere), but it is always “night and day” when I meet with producers who are used to casting projects in their minor markets and then they come to LA to sit in on sessions for a project we’re doing out of LA. The producers always say, after the sessions, “Oh my God. I had no idea how strong the LA talent pool is.” Always. They are shocked to see recognizable working actors showing up at sessions to read for small supporting roles. They can’t believe how very competitive it is, here. So, that means you need to not only be sure that your clients “book every time they get in the room” locally, but that you have a really clear picture of their ability vs. the abilities of those who live and work in Los Angeles every day.

Because, let’s face it, an out-of-market actor is going to be a longshot, here. When we can cast actors whose work we know, actors we’ve cast before, actors who we can at least meet up with in the room, why would we take a shot on someone who lives 3000 miles away and is willing to put himself on tape to be seen? I’m not saying: “Don’t go on tape.” I think that’s a great idea and I absolutely have brought actors to callbacks after seeing their first read via tape or YouTube. But your actor not only needs to be willing to go that extra step by putting himself on tape to get that first shot, he also has to be ready to hop on a plane to get to callbacks. And not expect anything “special” because he did that extra flying around. Point is, if they’re going to compete in the LA market, they need to be available to the LA buyers. And we don’t need to hear about how much it costs to fly here. Don’t undertake that expense or inconvenience, if you’re not ready to be in the mix for real.

One of the main ways that out-of-market (or new to LA) agents get on casting directors’ radar is with the pitch call. This call needs to be quick, professional, friendly, and informative. Best pitch calls last about 90 seconds and include the following:

  • who the agent is
  • what project she’s calling about
  • what role she’s pitching someone on
  • who that actor is
  • confirmation that the actor has already been submitted electronically
  • highlights about that actor and why this is a great role match
  • request for timeline to follow up further

The end. And that order of presentation is important. The number of projects any one CD is working on could be high. The number of roles absolutely could be high within each project, and you may be calling to pitch someone on a role we’ve already cast. And confirming that you’ve already done your submission the way we asked for it to be done in the breakdown (via hard copy or electronic submission) keeps us from having to start from scratch to try and figure out who your client is. We can just pull him up from within the system already in place, just by clicking on your submission packet from the Breakdowns interface.

Now, remember to lead with your ace actors, here. You don’t want to bust your butt to get an actor on our radar who — if we do call him in — doesn’t represent your roster in the best possible light. Because there might only be that one slot we’re going to give to someone on a “new” agent’s roster, and you won’t get another shot at it if we perceive that slot to have gone to waste. So make it count! Lead with your strongest booking machine. And don’t pitch too many other options to us. We don’t respond well to spaghetti slingers (even if those folks are agents we know). We need you to be our allies, as a part of the filtering process. That all starts right here.

Consistency over time is going to be a huge help, in the end. Arming yourself for success by having an LA-ready roster, each client equipped with a great headshot and outstanding demo reel, and making that quick and meaningful pitch call to be sure your clients are on our radar is the recipe for success. Eventually. It will take time, and it will take results (meaning, when we DO give a client of yours a shot, that actor will need to rock even if he or she doesn’t book the role) and even more consistency over more time. Hang in there! You’re off to a great start!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000839.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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